Stayin’ Alive Part 1: Mandatory medical check-ups

Today we went to get the required medical check-up for foreigners. After registration they led us to this hallway with lots of doors, and behind each one was a different exam waiting for us: blood test (super fast and efficient), eye and colour chart exam (no ABC’s of course, so there’s E shapes pointing different directions), urine sample (after they’ve dipped the little paper in it, just throw your still full container into the office trash basket), x-ray (also super quick), ultrasound (first time I ever had someone scribble on my abdomen with a jelly-covered computer pen), ECG (literally: “heart electric graph”), and then in the last room there was a doctor to give us a general examination. She was… like no other doctor I’ve ever seen.

I suppose there are a few reasons why the minimum amount of courtesy shown to paying customers/patients is a few notches lower in China. We’d been taught by foreigners and Chinese to expect that. And of course I’ve visited less-than-caring doctors in the West. But I’ve never had a drill sergeant give me a check-up before. We saw the routine three times: “Take off shoes!” “Coat on there!” “Stand face wall! Look picture!” We hopped to it! At the end came her report: “This your height! This your weight! Blood pressure normal! Check-up finished!” And then she promptly ignores you like you’ve just evaporated into thin air. We managed to get her to smile briefly twice: when Jessica said 谢谢 (thank you) and when I caught her stethoscope mid-way to the ground after she’d dropped it.

People like her make me wonder what they’ve been through. We wonder that a lot, actually, walking the streets and seeing so many old, lined faces pass us every minute. So much history… but that’s for other posts.

Stayin’ Alive Part 2: Learning to cross the street is next.

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